Semenya tells of struggle with newfound fame

Caster Semenya, the teenage world champion runner, has spoken of her difficulties coping with her fame.

Semenya, who emerged from obscurity to win the women’s 800m title at the world championships in Berlin in August, told the Guardian: “People want to stare at me now. They want to touch me. I’m supposed to be famous but I don’t think I
like it so much.”

In an interview at her training track at the University of Pretoria published on Saturday, she admitted: “It’s not so easy.
The university is OK but there is not many other places I can go.”

Semenya’s future as an athlete could be decided on Friday when the International Association of Athletics Federations is expected to announce its ruling on tests undertaken on her gender.

The IAAF could ban her from competing again, require that she undergo surgery, or take no action.

Leaked test results said Semenya was a hermaphrodite, sparking anger from the South African public and government, who have rallied behind the athlete.

But as the controversy swirls around her, Semenya said she had found refuge with her training group and her coach, Michael Seme.

“I am myself here,” she told the newspaper. “Everyone just accepts me. They know who I am. I am just Caster to these guys. I feel good with them. I feel much better here with [Seme] and the
athletes.”

Semenya insisted she was unchanged by her elevation to global stardom.

“What is the point of me changing? If I became another person it would be bad. If I acted in a different way with my friends they would not be happy. It’s important I stay the same.”

She joked that “I can’t go shopping no more” because of her new status in South Africa, but added: “I know who I am. I can’t change what [people] say.”

Semenya lowered her personal best time by eight seconds to win the world title.

“I am a fighter,” she said. “I never give up. And I knew I was going to get better.”

With the clock ticking to the IAAF ruling, her coach said: “We hope for Caster. That’s all we can do.”

Athletics South Africa (ASA) was suspended by the country’s national Olympic committee this month over its handling of the Semenya row.

The decision came after ASA boss Leonard Chuene was suspended pending an investigation after admitting he knew about the gender test conducted on the athlete prior to the world championships. - AFP

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